There are only a few places in the USA that have a history as rich as that of Woodford County, KY. For starters, Woodford County was established as one of the nine counties that made up what was originally known as the “District of Kentucky.” It was originally part of Virginia and was the last of the nine counties organized when the State of Kentucky was admitted to the Union in 1792.
As a county in Virginia, Woodford was considered part of Fayette County, VA. It was named for William Woodford, an American Revolutionary War general from Virginia who was with George Washington at Valley Forge and died while a prisoner of war in 1780 after being captured by the British.
These days, Woodford County encompasses more than 123,000 acres of the world’s finest agricultural land including bragging rights to the largest total farm income in the state. Much of that income comes from thoroughbred horse farms. One is Coolmore, America‘s Ashford Stud Farm where two Triple Crown winners, American Pharaoh and Justify, spend half the year.
As a visitor, there is plenty to do in Woodford County. First of all, there’s the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and one of Kentucky’s oldest bourbon whiskey distilleries, Labrot & Graham, where the Woodford Reserve brand is made. It’s located in the beautiful country outside the county seat of Versailles (pronounced VER-SALES). Then there’s the Bluegrass Scenic Railroad and Museum which provides an interactive experience of historic railroading in Kentucky. Inside, you’ll find a museum of historic railroad artifacts as well as an antique tour train. If you’re into the ponies. You can always take a guided horse farm tours which are available at many locations. If you’re a golfer you need to pay a visit to The Woodford Club in Versailles, KY, and play a round of golf on a course that will challenge you.
The Woodford Club was built in 1967 and was originally known as Woodford Hills Country Club and later as Moss Hill Golf Course. The course was designed by well-known architect Buck Blankenship who designed many courses in the area. In 2015 the course underwent a renovation by Kevin Hargrave who did his best to keep Blankenship’s original vision in mind. The fairways are carpeted in Zoysia grass which provides beautiful lies and leads to lush Bentgrass greens that roll true.
The Woodford Club plays 6,119 yards from the Blue tees with a course rating of 70.1 and a slope of 129. Move up a set to the Whites and the yardage drops to slightly less than 5,900 yards however the course rating drops only slightly to 69.2 with a slope of 126. Two other sets of tees, the Gold (5,331/66.0/117) and the Red (4,870/68.3/113) provide yardages and challenges that will make the round exciting and memorable for all. Just remember, when you’re in doubt of which tees to play, do what Jack Nicklaus suggests and Tee It Forward!
The Woodford Club has several memorable holes starting with Number 1, a 460-yard par 5 that plays straightaway. You can’t see the green from the tee and often you can’t see it until you’re ready to approach it. The approach shot plays downhill and about half a club less. The green is well protected by sand on three sides.
The 2nd hole is probably the most challenging par 3 on the course. From the White tees, the hole plays 174 yards uphill. Trees surrounding the green can come into play on any mishit tee shots and the bunker front right has seen its fair share of play.
Golf course owner Randy Clay’s favorite hole is Number 5, a par 4 that plays 362 yards. From the tee, on a clear day, you can see all the way to the next county. Keeping it in the fairway off the tee goes a long way in scoring well on this hole. The green is small and protected front left by a pot bunker. He played the hole well when I played with him, but not good enough to win any money!
Number 9 is a 347-yard par 4 with a tee shot over water followed by an approach shot that plays significantly uphill. The green is protected in front by two bunkers and the green has some good undulation in it.
Number 13 is a 166-yard par 3 and one of only a few holes with water. The tee shot is all carry over water into a wide green with a large tree on the right. Par is a good score here.
Most of the members I spoke with and the two I played with all agreed that Number 14 was by far the most challenging hole. It’s a 434-yard par 4 that for most players takes (at least) two well-struck shots to get there. It’s a gentle dogleg right with a fairway that slopes right to left. There are no bunkers around the green which is long and narrow and is easily a two-club difference between a front and back pin placement. Did I mention it’s the #1 handicap? It’s another hole where par is a good score.
Number 18 is a slight dogleg left that plays over water and then uphill, just like #9. From the White tees, the hole plays 333 yards. Favor the left side of the fairway off the tee to take the large tree on the right out of play. Lay back a bit off the tee and give yourself a clear shot into the green.
Before your round, get loosened up Woodford’s full-length driving range where you can hit every club in your bag. Move over to the practice putting green and stroke a few putts before heading to the first tee.
The Restaurant at The Woodford Club and the Jack Jouett Tavern are open every day from 11 am – 9 pm. Both feature fine bourbons, wine, and live music. Even if golf’s not your thing, the Jack Jouett Tavern is a great place to meet up with friends for a drink or grab a fantastic meal. During these troubled times, they have socially distanced dining outside on the patio, and inside the enclosed porch and dining room. There’s also drive-thru pickup, take-out, and free delivery within a 10-mile radius. For years, many locals thought that you had to be a member to eat at the restaurant and while that may have been true when it was a private club, these days, everyone is welcome.
And it’s not your typical menu. A “must try” appetizer is the Tater Bombs, homemade tater tots with cheese and bacon, and two delicious dipping sauces. They are incredible. I also know that the Meatball Sub is delicious and won’t leave you hungry. They have several dinner entrees to choose from including steaks, seafood, and BBQ brisket.
The Woodford Club is currently accepting new members. What you’ll find is a community of like-minded people that enjoy each other’s company, whether it’s playing a round of golf, indulging in a set of tennis, or just hanging around at the pool enjoying a beverage. It’s a great place to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Your membership helps to support The Woodford Club’s commitment to growing its boys’ and girls’ programs as they teach them the value of good sportsmanship and introduce them to the lifelong sports of golf and tennis. The Woodford Club offers several different membership plans with one that will meet the needs of just about anyone. For more information, please visit their website at www.thewoodfordclub.com.